Itís somewhat surprising to find a disc offering a new look at an older gameís soundtrack. Xenogears is considered a classic by many, and it featured music by Chrono Trigger co-composer Yasunori Mitsuda. Fans of the music of Chrono Trigger should find much to enjoy on any three of the Xenogears soundtrack releases, for there are pleasing stylistic similarities in many of the works. In general, music from Xenogears tends to be more dramatic and perhaps slightly more sorrowful than the gameís musical ancestor, but songs tend to be just as haunting as some of the best stuff from the classic RPG.
Of course, one thing that sets Xenogears: Light apart from the Japanese OST and Creid is the fact that it was produced entirely by fans. I canít convey how grateful I am that these guys took it upon themselves to remind me why I really need to finish playing this excellent game.
The disc starts with "Premonition," a subdued version of "Light from the Netherworlds" Ė the track featured during the game's opening movie. It was a very mysterious way to introduce the players to the game, but I believe the powerful, majestic composition (along with the impressive visuals) was what made me certain that Xenogears was a game worth playing. "Premonition" was arranged with a focus on the piano, though it works very well in terms of getting to the crux of the melody.
The original (OST) arrangement of "Graaf, Emperor of Darkness" was very evocative of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack Ė it was a haunting, percussive march befitting the theme it was trying to portray. The musicians behind Xenogears Light rearranged it with piano, violin, and flute, which takes away some of the thunder of the OST version, but it remains a haunting track. If anything, it gains an impression of thoughtfulness that isn't really present in the original, offering a new perspective on the composition.
"Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the People" is a heartbreaking composition of the sort that should play in the background whenever a doctor is delivering a particularly devastating diagnosis ("Your cat may never meow again, Iím afraid."), when your girlfriend is breaking up with you, or when your PS2 craps out in the middle of a key moment in a game. Using only a piano for this one, the new arrangement is just as sad and soulful as the original, and luckily its beauty outweighs the song's sorrow, otherwise it would be hard to listen to the tune too often.
"Faraway Promise," the next track on the disc, is more uplifting than "Tears of the Stars." It's based on the touching music box-style presentation of the original. Light stretches it out a little bit longer and adds a flute to the quiet piece, which is actually a core musical theme of the entire game.
Moving away from the somber moods generated by the first handful of tracks, "My Village is Number One" is a livelier piece for listeners to enjoy. It's the first town theme of the game, and seeing as it has to represent the innocent naivety of the main character before he sets off on his journey, it's bound to be an optimistic composition. Again, piano is the primary aural weapon of choice, and the pianist wields it with impressive dexterity.
The next track, "Sherat, the Wind is Calling," is another introspective look at a faster moving original. However, it's still a pretty piece done well on piano. Some of the sense of motion is lost in the more careful gait of the new version, though it picks up.
"Singing of the Gentle Wind," as its title might imply, is a quietly encouraging piece that really reminds me of the ending theme of Chrono Trigger. It expresses an attitude of moving on after suffering a significant loss, for the mellow tone of other songs is certainly present, but it is overshadowed by the threads of hope weaved into the tune. The song builds well on piano, and itís nice to see another key theme included on the disc.
One of my favorite tracks from the game would have to be "Shattering the Egg of Dreams," yet another slightly melodramatic composition that offers more hope than sorrow. Again, it's been simplified to fit the style of the other songs on this release, but this song is given a lovely violin accompaniment. This arrangement really bears the soul of the song, and even if I prefer the fuller sound of the original, this rendition does it great justice.
"One Who Bares Fangs at God" gets points merely for having such a cool title. The in-game version was a bit of a mood piece than anything. It wasnít a tune to listen to for the fun of it, but it added to the emotional impact of moments in the game with its tension-inducing sound and eerie background vocals (well, what sounded like vocals, at least). The track is different than many others on Xenogears: Light, for percussion is actually used on this arrangement, and the use of an electric piano is more pronounced than elsewhere on the disc. It actually turns the composition into more of a song and less of a mood piece, which is excellent for people who like to listen to this in their car.
Moving from the sorrowful, hopeful, and otherwise ominous themes earlier on, "Ship of Sleep and Remorse" presents a sound that is downright sinister. The original featured a harpsichord (which canít help but sound somewhat evil, no matter how itís played) though this one softens the tone by using an acoustic guitar to start it off. It then leads into a piano, which joins the guitar for a kinder sound than the original, though the tune still has a spooky aura surrounding it.
"Broken Mirror" presents a combination of most of the main themes of the game - much like a credits roll. If a listener were to just listen to this track, then he or she would have trouble thinking up all of the tragic events that transpire in the game. It's one of the highlights of the release.
One of the more motivational songs in the game, "Dreams of the Strong," sounds like a good montage piece for putting together equipment to go out and kick someone's butt. The Light rendition may not be as exciting, but itís still playful and fun to hear.
Traveling music was typically a given in most RPGs, and oftentimes, it was some of the most enjoyable. The airship themes from Final Fantasy rank as some of my favorites, possibly because the scenes in which characters gain control of the airship tend to be exceedingly cool. "The Blue Traveler" is one such theme, and it retains its intrepid attitude on this disc, arranged for the piano.
Just like many games feature a traveling theme, many also possess an aquatically inspired theme Ė even the original Super Mario Bros. I canít help but think of the ocean when I hear "October Mermaid." The original version of the track reminds me of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack more than any other song composed for Xenogears, inspiring me to like the tune just for the aural connection it shares with one of my favorite games. On Light, the similarities aren't as clear, but the song is just as enchanting, if slowed down a little too much for my tastes.
Returning somewhat to the more morose side of things, "The Treasure Which Cannot be Stolen" has been lengthened from its original running time. A little more time is devoted to introducing the song, and more care is taken going through the development of the music as it is shaped by the musicians. It wasn't one of my favorites originally, but it's performed well, and fans should appreciate the arrangement.
"Valley Where the Wind is Born" is a great town theme, evoking images of the countryside and bringing in the uncommon element of simplicity to the complex world of Xenogears. Personally, listening to an entire CD of piano music (as much as it's my favorite instrument) is a hard task to accomplish. Xenogears: Light isnít wholly devoted to piano, however, and this track (the 17th on the disc) features a jazz guitar, a saxophone, and some smooth bass. I appreciate the diversity, though the song is almost too tranquil for me to enjoy it. I'm sure if I listen to it while coding, I'll fall asleep. Still, calming music has its place, so I canít complain.
"Gathering Stars in the Night Sky" sounds like a hard thing to do. Though, the simple encouragement presented by the piano arrangement on this disc might make people feel a little more comfortable about taking on a demanding task.
Many people compared some elements of the story of Xenogears to Evangelion, and "The Alpha and Omega" certainly sounded like a track that belonged on the other apocalyptic theologically-inspired giant robot story. The original edition was performed with a dynamic choir, so itís nice to hear it portrayed with traditional instruments. It loses its cinematic flavor, but seeing as this is a CD and not a movie, thatís acceptable.
"Into Eternal Sleep" is where people will be headed if they donít like instrumental music Ė especially for this track. It may not be exciting, but it is one of the more delicate songs on the CD, and thus it should satisfy those looking for something nice and soft to lose themselves within.
Quite possibly my favorite composition in the entire game, there's a good chance "Bond of Sea and Fire" earned that status because it was a very simple, easy to play song. Iím no expert musician, but I liked playing this song on the piano quite a bit. I like the way the song builds up from a simple melody to something with considerably more depth. This arrangement of it adds a considerable amount of texture to the tune, changing it from a straightforward song into something notably more complex.
The Celtic flavor of the original soundtrack is no longer very noticeable, and the overall pace of the CD is very mellow, but in a way, these changes aren't bad. If we were given the same songs presented in the exact same way, then the disc wouldn't be worth getting.
That said, I'd really like some Black Mages style mixes of these songs, but I suppose I have to wait for Xenogears: Heavy before Iím treated to that.
The CD is packaged professionally in a standard-size clear white DVD keepcase. An image of the cross is clear on the cover - conveniently slanted to look like an X, which ties in nicely to the title of the game as well as its overall theme. A booklet is also included with the package.
Xenogears: Light's overall design is impressive Ė especially considering the fact that this is a CD produced on what had to be a shoestring budget. The creation of this CD is a testament to the creators' love of video game music, and evidence of their collective dedication shines throughout the product. If you're a fan of the genre or if you loved the classic Playstation RPG, then do us all a favor and support OneUp Studios by treating yourself to an interesting twist on Yasunori Mitsudaís excellent soundtrack.